Compost is the result of biological decomposition of organic matter. It is similar to what occurs naturally on the forest floor. Leaves, fruit, flowers, twigs, dead insects and animals, and other organic matter fall to the forest floor and are consumed by microorganisms, insects, and animals. Compost is a human-controlled version of what occurs in nature. We are harnessing the hard work of microorganisms, insects and small animals like worms, to help us turn our organic waste into a resource for our soils. Composting is an environmentally responsible way to handle our organic waste.
Bacteria and fungi are the main movers and shakers in the composting process. They turn our organic wastes, such as food, food-soiled paper and yard waste, into a stable soil amendment. The bacteria work so vigorously and generate enough heat that steam will rise out of the compost. This increase in temperature is important because it kills pathogens and weed seeds that would be undesirable in compost. Human, plant and animal pathogens are destroyed when exposed to temperatures in excess of 131F.
If you want to learn more about compost, here are links to useful information:
United States Composting Council
Washington Organic Recycling Council
Cedar Grove Composting
- Compost is primarily used as a soil amendment. It improves the quality of our soils, allowing for healthier plants to grow. Compost adds nutrients and stable organic matter to soil, providing a healthier environment in which beneficial microorganisms, insects and animals can flourish.
- Farmers use compost to increase their yields and stabilize their soils and have been doing so for as long as humans have farmed. Applying compost to farmland is more sustainable than other methods of fertilizing such as slash-and-burn or synthetic fertilizers.
- Gardeners use compost to promote plant and soil health. Seattle University has been using compost for many years and it has improved the quality of our campus soils and the health of campus vegetation. Healthy soils, plants and trees support a more diverse ecology.
- Compost has other more novel uses, too. The composting process has been studied as a way to break down harmful chemicals into benign byproducts. Compost has been used in compost “socks” on construction sites to control chemical and oil spills. Compost is applied by the Washington Department of Transportation (WA-DOT) to freeway right-of ways. The compost encourages plants to grow and stabilize soils along our freeways.